Dear readers: I’m all booked up in 2021

As the pandemic lockdown continues, it's as good a time as any to make reading a priority


Exactly six years ago, I wrote an article about how I had learned to embrace and love reading again – books, that is, not Insta stories or statistics about COVID numbers. Ironically, social media sites like Goodreads and Twitter – through its #50BookPledge hashtag – helped keep me on track to finish my annual goal.

Well, dear reader, I have an update: it’s changed my life. As other new year’s resolutions have failed, it’s been the one I’ve stuck with. This week, I’m embarking on my eighth straight year of doing this. I just set my reading goal for 2021 at 52 books, or one book per week.

Before I began, 50 books seemed incredibly daunting. As I wrote in that article, I was probably averaging five or six books a year before then: one or two award-winners, a few for assignments, a beach read, that sort of thing. But as I soon discovered, once I got into the habit of reading, of devoting a weekend morning to a book, of sneaking in 10 minutes here and there on a streetcar, it became as natural as breathing.

Books and friendships

I even widened my circle of friends and acquaintances. I met new, like-minded readers through the various sites. But I also discovered that some of my current friends, colleagues and acquaintances were big readers, too.

Publicist Suzanne Cheriton is a voracious reader. So is creative consultant Maxine Bailey, who, even before the pandemic, I encountered more often on book sites than I did in person. I remember waiting to get into the Theatre Centre for a show when playwright/actor Rosa Laborde came up to me to talk books. And when I reviewed the latest Stephen King novel last summer, writer and actor Matt Watts pointed out the book’s similarities to Firestarter, which I read a few months later because of him. (He was right.)

And then there are the aspirational readers – Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen, Jael Richardson, Janet Somerville, Vicki Ziegler – who read way more than I do. They are my book-reading heroes.

Svitlana Unuchko / Getty Images

How the pandemic has affected reading

After the pandemic hit and I began working from home, I expected my reading numbers would skyrocket. But the opposite happened. I suddenly found myself unable to focus on a sustained narrative. I picked up many books only to abandon them after a few chapters. I wrote about the experience here.

Well, there are only so many TV shows you can binge or podcasts you can listen to before you want something… more. Now that things are, if not normal, at least familiar, I’ve settled into more of a reading routine.

One of the things I’ve learned from keeping track of my reading is not to judge what I’ve picked up. We have to get over this idea that reading has to be good for you. In the same way that not every movie we watch has to be a masterpiece, not every book has to be a literary classic.

Not every book has to be good for you

In terms of movies, sometimes a silly comedy or a Liam Neeson/Dwayne Johnson actioner is the only thing that satisfies that itch. Likewise, often a good thriller or sweet young adult novel is what you need to read. The news cycle has enough serious stories as it is.

Still, with the second lockdown in effect and winter making even essential runs for supplies an effort, it’s as good a time as any to make reading a priority.

Some of my friends on the Goodreads site regularly set goals for themselves that go beyond a mere number of books. My friend Julie, for instance, successfully embarked on a Literary Road Trip in 2020, reviewing books set in each one of the United States.

Maybe I’ll do something similar with books set in each province and territory. It’s a smaller list, after all.

I ended that 2015 article by wondering if that was the year I would finally read Proust’s Remembrance Of Things Past or Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Alas, I still haven’t read either one. But I’ve got a whole year in front of me.

@glennsumi

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